Meet the Maker: Stephen Woodcock, Distilleries manager, Distell International

Stephen Woodcock, Distilleries manager at Distell International talks to SLTN


Q: Which brands do you produce?

A: Tobermory, Ledaig, Tobermory Gin.

Q: Where do you work?

A: Tobermory Distillery on the Isle of Mull.

Q: How long have you worked there?

A: I’ve been in my current role with Distell for three years, having moved from managing distilleries in Speyside for Diageo.

Q: What’s a typical working day like?

A: No two days are the same. I spend most of my time tying in with three operational sites, managing any issues which arise, bringing Tobermory out of mothballs and helping develop the gin – all of this seems to make the hours fly by!

Q: Describe the production process.

A: Two distinct single malt whiskies are made at Tobermory Distillery. We have the unpeated Tobermory and the heavily peated Ledaig. We have also recently added a gin still to produce a gin which is unique to Tobermory Distillery.

Q: Please provide brief tasting notes for your products.

A: Tobermory whisky: rich oak, sweet fruit and citrus – predominantly orange, with sweet malt and vanilla.

Ledaig whisky: a balance of sweet vanilla and fruit notes balanced with peppery spice and smoke – almost a sweet peat.

Tobermory Gin: a juniper-led gin balanced with an array of botanicals, including heather, elderflower and tea, with a rich creamy mouth feel and a hint of sweet malt.

Q: What would you say sets your products apart?

A: An authentic production process comes through in the quality of our products. All are made by hand, by local people and this shines through in a final spirit that should never be rushed.

Q: What’s your favourite part of the job?

A: Being a very small part of Scotland’s gift to the world is extremely rewarding and the boost that gets me out of bed every day. In addition, seeing the recognition that our brands receive is extremely rewarding.

Q: What’s your favourite way to drink your product?

A: Typically as it comes, but how whisky is enjoyed can be dependent on mood, company, weather, time of year… it’s completely subjective and no one should tell you any different.

Q: What’s your career highlight so far?

A: I think being part of a team that has developed a new product from scratch – Tobermory Gin – has been a real highlight given its popularity so far. It has given me a real insight into how gin is produced.

Q: Who do you admire in the industry and why?

A: It’s unfair to highlight one individual as over the years I have learnt so much from so many talented people and there would be too many to mention. The main point here is that you should learn something new in our industry every day, and from a variety of sources – every day should be treated as a school day.

Q: How do you relax outside of work?

A: I spend my time with my family, armchair rugby, playing a good guitar badly, listening to music – mainly Pink Floyd, socialising, and maybe even the odd dram.

Q: If you could invite anyone for a drink who would you ask, where would you go and what would you drink?

A: I’d invite myself along to Pink Floyd’s recording of Wish You Were Here in Abbey Road Studios circa 1974. I’d take a bottle (or ten) of Ledaig 18 and I’d soak up what must have been, in my humble opinion, one of the most creative processes ever undertaken.